Future of Annapolis' hospital; Anne Arundel: Residents' worries about downtown site are understandable, but exaggerated.


ANNAPOLITANS worry that they may not have much of a say in the reuse of the Anne Arundel Medical Center, the downtown hospital that will relocate in 2001 to a new facility in outlying Parole. Considering the hospital's strategic location in the heart of Annapolis' historic district -- it has been at Franklin and Cathedral streets since townsfolk created "The Annapolis Emergency Hospital" in 1902 -- it is natural that the residents would be wary about the property's future use.

They will get their say. AAMC has created a hospital site reuse committee that includes local business leaders and residents. City government seeks citizen input. Proposed changes in zoning or exterior architecture would also trigger formal reviews.

Some of the community's reported fears appear to be overblown. It's hard to imagine a use that would be more intensive than a round-the-clock medical operation with staff, visitors and 56,000 patients annually.

Residents should also take comfort in the fact that AAMC is not leaving this market. It isn't apt to want ill will as it opens a $64 million hospital off U.S. 50-301.

In selecting a buyer for the 291,000-square-foot hospital and adjoining garage and smaller buildings, AAMC's board must also protect its institutional interests. One of those is to make responsible financial decisions that ensure its long-term survival. So far, 63 developers, many with experience in recycling old buildings, have expressed interest in submitting plans for the attractive location, not far from Spa Creek and Main Street. AAMC has set an April 10 deadline for developers to submit plans.

By summer, the hospital committee will have an opportunity to review and comment on the proposals.

In the best of all worlds, AAMC would find a reuse that residents welcome and provides the hospital with a handsome return.

Pub Date: 2/23/99

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